CAIRO — Egypt’s state security prosecution on Monday began questioning an Israeli man suspected of spying for the Mossad intelligence agency, state television reported.
Ilan Grapel was detained on Sunday from a Cairo hotel and ordered to be held for 15 days pending investigation.
The US embassy in Cairo confirmed that Grapel is a “US-Israel dual national” and said US consular staff had visited him.
“We have confirmed that Ilan Chaim Grapel, age 27, is a US citizen and was detained on June 12, 2011 by Egyptian authorities,” embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton told AFP.
“A consular officer visited Mr Grapel on June 13 and confirmed that he was in good health,” she said.
News of his arrest was plastered over the front pages of the press, with the state-owned Al-Akhbar describing it as a “painful Egyptian hit against the Mossad.”
Grapel, who according to state media is a “Mossad officer,” is accused of sowing sectarian strife and chaos in Egypt after a popular uprising forced president Hosni Mubarak to step down on February 11.
Authorities said on Sunday that the Israeli man had been “posing as a foreign correspondent,” and that his movements and phone calls had been monitored before his arrest.
Several pictures of Grapel were released showing him in Israeli army uniform posing with other soldiers, and shaking hands with worshippers at a mosque in Cairo.
Another picture shows Grapel standing in Tahrir Square — the symbolic heart of protests that brought down Mubarak — wearing sunglasses and holding a large sign that read: “Oh stupid Obama, it is a pride revolution not a food revolution.”
Another front-page photo on the state-owned daily Al-Ahram and shown repeatedly on state TV shows Grapel holding a microphone in a mosque, apparently “preaching.”
Israel’s foreign ministry said on Sunday it was unaware of any reports of Israeli citizens being detained in Egypt.
Israeli commentators said reports that an Israeli citizen had been arrested for spying for the Mossad in Cairo seemed strange.
“I can’t imagine that there will be any Israeli reactions, but anyone who knows even a little bit about these things knows that you don’t have an Israeli with an Israeli passport sitting in a foreign capital collecting things,” said Channel 2 news analyst Ehud Yaari.
Last year, Egypt — which signed a 1979 peace treaty with Israel — said the confessions of an Egyptian accused of spying for Israel had led to three espionage cells being dismantled in Lebanon and Syria.